One of the questions that arose from my butchery course was the seemingly obvious one of what to do with all of the meat I ended up with. Roasting joints, sausages and chops are all very well but what about the trotters? I have tried pig’s foot before at a restaurant in Paris (specifically, the one that’s called Au Pied de Cochon, is located in the Les Halles district and is open 24 hours a day) and I can’t say that I liked it that much.
However, trotters are a vital component of the jelly that makes up a pork pie. Now I’ve seen pork pies being made on the telly before but I’d never thought to make one myself – as an aficionado of the pork pie, I’d rather buy a decent one. Mrs King’s happens to be my favourite.
But, seeing as I had a vital ingredient, why not make one myself?
The first step was to find a pork pie recipe. I turned to Google, which supplied me with a recipe by Nigel Slater. He’s not my favourite TV cookery person but he has the virtue of being known for uncomplicated recipes so I figured that he would be an ideal guide for this first-time pork pie maker.
For the stock, I put the trotters in a large pan with an onion, a carrot, some parsley stalks, a stick of celery and half-a-dozen peppercorns and covered the lot with water. Slater’s recipe called for two trotters plus pork bones; as I didn’t bring back any bones, I just used all three of my trotters. This was boiled, strained, cooled, had the fat taken of the top and then reduced. The reducing took a while as I had well over a litre of stock that needed to be boiled down to around 400 millilitres.
The chopping of the pork didn’t take as long as the stock but it was at least more hands-on. As there was well over a kilo of it and the recipe called for it to be cut into small cubes, it took well over an hour.
The pastry for a traditional pork pie is of the hot water crust variety, made by boiling water with lard and mixing it with flour. I’ve never had to buy lard before, and it turns out that this is not something that’s stocked by my local greengrocer. I had to go to Budgens instead.
Perhaps the hardest part of making the pie was getting the pastry into the cake tin. It was greasy to the touch – well, it did contain around 200 grams of lard – and the cake tin I used is a deep one. That, by the way, is why the pie I made cannot be classified as a Melton Mowbray pork pie; it wasn’t free-standing. That and the fact that it was not made in the geographical area as designated by the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association.
And then it went in the oven while the stock continued to reduce.
When the pie emerged, the last act could begin. This was the pouring of the stock into the pie. This was actually easier said than done – some of it leaked out of the bottom of the tin. Was this because of a gap in the pastry? I would have to wait until I served it up before I found out.
Which I did on New Year’s Day. Getting the pie out of the tin proved surprisingly difficult (now I know why the Melton Mowbray people insist on their pies being free-standing). There wasn’t enough jelly at the top (it had leaked out) but other than that it was delicious.
And so there we are – the first East Finchley pork pie. I think I might make a number of smaller ones next time rather than the one big pie! Although I do like the idea of making one that has a boiled egg in it. But I’d need to get hold of some more trotters first.